2017 Dodgers Top 100 Prospects: The Top 10

Cody Bellinger (Photo: Stacie Wheeler)

If you’ve stuck around this long, congratulations, you’re as sick in the head as I am. But seriously, I (and we) appreciate your patronage.

Here is this year’s Top 10. There aren’t a ton of surprises, aside from a player or two who might be left out, which you can read about below.

This year, I’ve tried something different. I tried to do more of a scouting report format. But as you’ll see, things kind of got away from me in the “summary” portion of the “reports.” I like the idea of it, but I’m not sure I like the execution. Good news is, I have a year to iron out the wrinkles.

I’ve included Future Value, designated “FV,” grades and risks for the Top 30 prospects. For example, if a guy gets a “50 low,” he has a really good chance to be an average player at his position. If a guy gets a “55 high,” there’s a good chance he won’t reach that ceiling, but the potential is there. The grades are 20-80 (50 is average), and the risks are as follows:

  • Low: Players who are older, have debuted, are relievers and/or have higher floors than ceilings
  • Medium: Players who are a mix of young and old, usually have higher floors
  • High: Players who are usually younger with potential, but also question marks
  • Extreme: Players who are younger with star potential, but a ton of question marks

This is to show what value a player might provide at the MLB level. They may not all make it, but these are all quality prospects.

Previous entries in the series:

A couple notes:

Austin Barnes and Andrew Toles are noticeably absent. Both of them had their rookie eligibility expire during the 2016 season. If they were included, they both would have been in the Top 10: Toles at No. 7 and Barnes at No. 8, which doesn’t include … Jose De Leon, who was penciled in at No. 3 before the trade to acquire Logan Forsythe.

Rating Key

80 – Elite
70-75 – Plus-plus
60-65 – Plus
55 – Above-average
50 – Average
45 – Fringy
40 – Below-average
30-35 – Poor
20-25 – Very Poor

Editor’s note: I am not a scout (#notascout). I am an amateur when it comes to evaluating players. I don’t claim to be a pro, I just want to pass along the information to the masses. Notes and comments are based on personal observation, talking to sources, reading scouting reports and watching video.


10. Grant Dayton

DOB: 11/25/87 Age: 29 Ht: 6’2 Wt: 195 Bats: Left Throws: Left Position: RP
Tools Now Future
Fastball 60 60
Curveball 45 50
Slider 50 55
Command/Control 50 55
Delivery 50 50
Future Value 50 Medium
Type of pitcher: Fly ball, swing-and-miss stuff, plus-fastball, above-average command

How acquired: Trade with Marlins July 15, 2015 for LHP Chris Reed

Physical description: Good frame, decent athleticism, no projection left

Strengths: Good command of fastball, good spin (top 25 percent of all MLBers), slider swing-and-miss offering (14.7 SwStr%), good control

Weaknesses: Fly ball tendency, home run prone, command inconsistent at times, offspeed stuff not on par with fastball, inexperienced at MLB level, old for a prospect

Key statistics: 2.05 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 38.6 K%, 5.9 BB%, 15.0 SwStr%, .196 BABIP in majors, 45.9 K% in minors (2016)

Summary: Dayton burst onto the scene in 2016 after a decent 2015 season. He began the season with Tulsa and carved up Texas League hitters. A promotion to Oklahoma City saw him perform just as well. Even more impressive than the insane strikeout rate was the fact he walked just 11 hitters in 52 minor-league innings. He got the call to Los Angeles and debuted against a pretty easy opponent – the Cardinals. He followed up a scoreless 2-inning outing against them with another scoreless 2-inning outing against the Red Sox. That Boston outing saw him strike out Andrew Benintendi, David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez and Travis Shaw – all swinging. He was almost equally effective against righties as he was against lefties. Dayton has some deception in his cross-body, three-quarters arm slot delivery. He hides the ball well and spins it in such a way that it’s much more effective – borderline elite – than it should be if you look at just the velocity (90-93 MPH). His mid-80s slider induces a lot of swinging strikes and is his go-to offspeed pitch to get an out. He also has a somewhat effective high-70s curveball that steals strikes and changes the batter’s eye-level more than induces whiffs. While he might not be a closer in waiting, he’s a legitimate late-inning reliever who isn’t hampered by platoon advantages. He should be a fixture in the Dodger bullpen for the foreseeable future.

2016 ranking: NR
2017 location: Los Angeles
ETA: Debuted 2016

9. Gavin Lux

DOB: 11/23/97 Age: 19 Ht: 6’2 Wt: 190 Bats: Left Throws: Right Position: SS
Tools Now Future
Hit 40 55
Power 25 40
Run 50 55
Defense 40 55
Arm 50 55
Future Value 55 High
Type of hitter: Line drive, gap pop, some run but not a base stealer, chance for more power

How acquired: 1st round (No. 20 overall) of 2016 MLB Draft, $2,317,000 signing bonus

Physical description: Slight build, athletic, not a lot of projection, sneaky strength

Strengths: Projects to stick at shortstop, good arm, good bat-to-ball skills, can work a count, good speed, polished for high school draftee, could move quickly

Weaknesses: Lacking power, limited offensive ceiling without more power, some swing-and-miss, fringy bat speed

Key statistics: .296/.375/.399 (AZL/Ogden), 11.1 BB%, 20.1 K%, .103 ISO, 117 wRC+ (AZL)

Summary: The Dodgers passed on talented shortstop Delvin Perez to pop Lux instead. Those two were the only players drafted early who project to remain at shortstop. Offensively, Lux doesn’t have a high ceiling. Some threw a Brandon Crawford comp on him, but that’d be his best-case scenario offensively. He might be more of an early career Crawford in terms of offense with more on-base ability and speed. He has a ground ball swing path that limits his power potential. He could level out a bit and become more of a line drive hitter. That will take some work by the Dodgers’ development staff and minor-league coaches. He can run a bit, but he won’t be a big base stealer in the majors. He’ll make his money with his glove, which projects to be above-average, bordering on plus. At worst, he should be a utility player who’s best at shortstop. He’s not uncommon from new Dodgers’ prospect Drew Jackson, but Lux’s floor is a bit higher. He could go back to Ogden, seeing as he had just 34 plate appearances there. The Wisconsin native could also find himself in Midland with the Loons, as he is used to the cold weather of the upper Midwest.

2016 ranking: NR
2017 location: Rookie Ogden/Low-A Great Lakes
ETA: 2020

8. Jordan Sheffield

DOB: 6/1/95 Age: 22 Ht: 6’0 Wt: 185 Bats: Right Throws: Right Position: SP/RP
Tools Now Future
Fastball 45 65
Slider 40 55
Changeup 45 60
Command/Control 30 45
Delivery 35 45
Future Value 60 Extreme
Type of pitcher: Power, fly ball high velo, wipeout offspeed stuff, mid-rotation or late-inning reliever

How acquired: Supplemental 1st-round pick (No. 36 overall) in 2016 draft from Vanderbilt University; $1,850,000 signing bonus

Physical description: Small, slight build, athletic, no projection

Strengths: Great velocity, plus-changeup, pitched against good competition in college, bloodline (brother is Yankees’ prospect Justus Sheffield),

Weaknesses: Former TJ recipient, small for a starter, trouble repeating high-effort delivery, poor command/control, home run prone, might be a reliever

Key statistics: 3.75 ERA, 25.4 K%, 11.8 BB% in 12 pro innings, averaged 6.3 IP/GS at Vanderbilt

Summary: One of my personal favorites from the ’16 draft, the Dodgers jumped all over Sheffield when he fell to them at No. 36. He isn’t the prototypical starting pitching prospect who’s big, projectable and profiles as an inning-eater. Instead, he’s more of a high-risk, high-reward starter who might ultimately end up in the bullpen. His fastball is a legitimate mid-90s offering that has almost touched 100 MPH since turning pro. He might not be able to sustain that kind of velo as a starter, but he still projects to have a plus or better fastball if he sticks in the rotation. His breaking pitch is a low-80s slider that has slurvy tendencies. It’s inconsistent at this point, but it has flashed above-average potential. His mid-80s changeup is filthy and grades out as a future plus-offering. It has incredible fade and depth and is a swing-and-miss pitch against both lefties and righties. He could draw comparisons to Jharel Cotton in terms of overall profile, but Cotton is a better pitcher than Sheffield is presently and has a better chance of remaining in the rotation. Sheffield has a high-effort delivery that makes it hard to repeat his delivery. It’s the biggest culprit contributing to his poor command/control grade. There’s nothing routine about his delivery, but it works for him. There’s a lot of elbows and kneecaps coming at the hitter, and that’s usually reserved for taller, lankier pitchers. Sheffield is anything but that. He has a high three-quarters arm slot, but because of the many moving parts in his delivery, he has a hard time repeating it. That leads some to believe he’ll end up in the bullpen. If he does, he could be a late-inning reliever or even a closer.

There’s no denying his stuff is among the best in the system. If absolutely everything falls his way, he has the chance to be a No. 2 starter. A more likely rotation spot for him is in the No. 3 or 4 spot. Being a college draftee, he should go to Rancho for his first taste of the Cal League. He could move quickly as a reliever, but if the Dodgers want to develop him as a starter, that’ll take a little longer.

2016 ranking: NR
2017 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
ETA: 2019

7. Yusniel Diaz

DOB: 10/7/96 Age: 20 Ht: 6’1 Wt: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right Position: CF/LF
Tools Now Future
Hit 40 60
Power 35 45
Run 55 60
Defense 50 55
Arm 50 50
Future Value 55 High
Type of hitter: Line drive, not much loft, good bat-to-ball, could hit for average power if all goes right

How acquired: International signing (Cuba) Nov. 22, 2015; $15,500,000 signing bonus

Physical description: Wiry strong, limits overall power potential, mature body for 20-year-old, athletic

Strengths: Good feel for hitting, solid bat speed, ball jumps off his bat, level swing path, good eye, performed well in Cuba as teenager, was second-youngest regular in Cal League

Weaknesses: Limited power potential, inconsistent performance, inconsistent defender, some swing-and-miss, didn’t dominate hitter-friendly league, missed time with shoulder injury

Key statistics: .272/.333/.418 (Rancho), 8.3 BB%, 20.4 K%, .146 ISO, 102 wRC+

Summary: Diaz was part of the Dodgers’ international spending spree, landing a bonus that was just $500,000 less than what they gave fellow Cuban Yadier Alvarez. The Dodgers are betting on Diaz’s physicality and overall talent to make the price worth it. In his first taste of pro ball in the states, Diaz showed all the tools of being an everyday player. He has extremely strong hands and wrists and uses them to generate plus-bat speed. He’s not overly strong, so even average power numbers seems out of reach. That doesn’t mean he can’t be an effective line-drive hitter with gap power, a la Lorenzo Cain. He has more of an up-the-middle/opposite-field approach in game, but he’ll turn on a ball to keep pitchers honest. If he could incorporate that more into his approach, he could become a more well-rounded hitter. He has the look of a big-league hitter at the plate with his open stance, toe-tap, knee-twist and smooth stroke. He’s not over-anxious at the plate, as he possesses a good eye, but he will chase at times. His swing is compact and his bat is quick, which is why some see him as an above-average hitter at the next level.

Defensively, he has plenty of speed to handle center field, but his reads need some work, which should come with more reps. He missed a lot of time in the field last season with a sore shoulder. That impacted his production at the plate and ability to play the field – he started just 57 of 85 games in the field. He has borderline plus-speed, but he hasn’t yet figure out how to use it to his benefit on the base paths. He might be good for double-digit steals in the majors. Since he had a somewhat interrupted pro debut and the fact that he’s only 20, a return to Rancho Cucamonga wouldn’t be terribly surprising (a la Johan Mieses). But he should see Double-A at some point this season and has the most advanced sub-21-year-old bat in the system.

2016 ranking: 12
2017 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga/Double-A Tulsa
ETA: 2020

6. Willie Calhoun

DOB: 11/4/94 Age: 22 Ht: 5’8 Wt: 187 Bats: Left Throws: Right Position: 2B
Tools Now Future
Hit 50 60
Power 45 55
Run 40 35
Defense 40 40
Arm 45 45
Future Value 55 High
Type of hitter: See-ball hit ball, surprising power, high contact, can walk, not a lot of swing-and-miss

How acquired: 4th round of the 2015 MLB Draft (No. 132 overall) from Yavapai College; $347,500 signing bonus

Physical description: Short, stocky, “funny body,” not svelte, thick lower-half

Strengths: Can really hit, has power, doesn’t strike out a lot, walks a fair amount, makes loud contact, performed well against older competition

Weaknesses: No defensive home, fringe-average (at best) at second, well below-average speed, conditioning could be issue

Key statistics: .254/.318/.469, 27 HR, 8.0 BB%, 11.6 K%, .215 ISO, 123 wRC+ as 21-year-old in Double-A

Summary: Calhoun has done nothing but hit since the Dodgers popped him in the ’15 draft. He got a surprising assignment to Tulsa to begin the 2016 season and handled it well. He slowed down a bit toward the end of the season, in part because of his suboptimal conditioning. But he can absolutely hit. Calhoun has a level swing that produces natural loft, which is quite the talent for a guy who is (generously) listed at 5-foot-8. He has a quick bat and load that helps him drive through the hitting zone. He’s a grinder at the plate and will make pitchers work to get him out. He’ll expand the zone at times, but he makes contact on those pitches and fouls off some good pitcher’s pitches. He has a decent leg-kick and clears his hips as the bat is coming through the strike zone, tapping into his power potential. There are questions whether his approach translates 1:1 at the next level, so there could be a little more swing-and-miss in the majors. Even if there is, he’ll still hit and find his way onto an MLB roster.

Defensively, well, he’s barely passable at second base right now. He’ll need to continue working at it if he’s to stick there long term. Because of his unathletic profile, he doesn’t have much hope of surviving in the outfield (well, left field). He’s too short to be a full-time first baseman and doesn’t have the arm or instincts for third base. He looks like a 2B/LF guy who isn’t even average at either spot. So, he’ll have to really hit if he’s to play for a National League team. He’d be a perfect DH for an American League team. Because of the logjam of players ahead of him, he could find back in Tulsa to start the season, but it should be a short stay. He’ll get a lot of playing time in Oklahoma City with an extreme outside chance of debuting in 2017.

2016 ranking: 24
2017 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City
ETA: 2018

5. Walker Buehler

DOB: 7/28/94 Age: 22 Ht: 6’2 Wt: 175 Bats: Right Throws: Right Position: SP
Tools Now Future
Fastball 45 65
Curveball 40 60
Changeup 40 50
Cutter 45 65
Command/Control 40 55
Delivery 40 50
Future Value 60 High
Type of pitcher: Power, fly ball, legit 3-pitch swing-and-miss mix, pitchability

How acquired: 1st round of 2015 MLB Draft (No. 24 overall) from Vanderbilt University; $1,780,000 signing bonus

Physical description: Lanky, plenty of room for projection, wiry, could add weight

Strengths: Top-of-the-rotation stuff, plus-fastball, wipeout breaking pitches, polished, faced strong college competition

Weaknesses: Lack of pro data, former TJ recipient, velo might not hold, 5 IP since last college game in June 2016

Key statistics: 33.3 K%, 16.7 BB%, 0 hits allowed in 5 pro innings

Summary: Buehler fell a bit in the ’15 draft, and it seems for good reason. The Dodgers selected him and didn’t sign him until deadline day. Just before he signed, word broke that he’d need Tommy John surgery, so the Dodgers got him at a discount. After a year-plus of rehab, Buehler made his pro debut in 2016. It was just five innings, but it was five exciting innings. His fastball was clocked in the mid-90s and touched the high-90s. He was more of a low-90s/mid-90s touch guy in college. His high-80s cutter also took a big leap forward and now challenges his high-70s curveball as his best offspeed pitch. It has an 11-5 shape. Both of them project to be plus-offerings and should help him induce many swings and misses. He even has a potentially average changeup, but that’s more of a show-me pitch at this rate.

He has good arm speed and a decent delivery. The delivery is somewhat reminiscent of Tim Lincecum, but he’s not as slightly built as the former Cy Young award winner. There are concerns if he can handle a starter’s workload without putting on some weight, but he has the arm talent to stick in the rotation. There’s some effort to the delivery, but it isn’t nearly as violent as Sheffield’s. He has cleaned it up a bit since turning pro. Buehler has the talent to be a No. 2 starter, but a lot would have to go right for him to reach that ceiling. He’s more likely to end up as a mid-rotation guy. If he has to move to the bullpen, he could be a high-leverage, late-inning reliever whose stuff could tick up.

Conventional wisdom would have Buehler going to Great Lakes, but the Dodgers might not want to expose Buehler to the cold temperatures of the upper Midwest in April. They could hold him back in extended spring training before sending him out to Rancho. He could move quickly as a reliever, but the Dodgers want him to develop as a starter.

2016 ranking: 13
2017 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
ETA: 2019

4. Brock Stewart

DOB: 10/3/91 Age: 25 Ht: 6’3 Wt: 210 Bats: Left Throws: R Position: SP
Tools Now Future
Fastball 55 60
Slider 45 50
Changeup 50 55
Command/Control 55 60
Delivery 55 55
Future Value 55 Medium
Type of pitcher: Fly ball, command/stuff profile, can miss bats, stuff could play up in relief

How acquired: 6th round of 2013 MLB Draft (No. 189 overall) from Illinois State University; $190,000 signing bonus

Physical description: Starter’s frame, broad shoulders, not much physical projection, sturdy lower-half

Strengths: Fastball plays up because of command and spin, changeup misses bats against both lefties and righties, slider has potential to be true wipeout pitch (24.4 percent whiff rate in MLB), success in high minors, Dodger MiLB Pitcher of the Year (2016), plus-velocity with chance to play up out of bullpen

Weaknesses: Slider shape inconsistent, lacking pedigree, home run prone, sometimes a little too reliant on the fastball, didn’t exceed 95 pitches in any outing (MLB or MiLB)

Key statistics: 11.0 SwStr% in MLB, 9.6 K/BB in Triple-A, 1.79 ERA in 121 IP across three MiLB levels

Summary: Stewart performed well enough in 2015 to be considered a sleeper prospect by some. His 2016 performance proved those folks right. It was a breakout season for him, and he has established himself as an important piece for the Dodgers going forward (so much so that they wouldn’t include him and Jose De Leon in the same deal for Brian Dozier). I might be the high guy on him, as there’s a No. 3 starter here if everything goes his way – and not much more has to go his way. If he improves his mid-80s slider and becomes even more consistent with it (better tilt/depth) and differentiates it enough from being a cutter, it should be a legit third pitch that could challenge his changeup for his best offspeed pitch. His 91-94 MPH fastball already has proven to be his best pitch, as he gets a little run on it at times. His changeup is a weapon against lefties, but he isn’t afraid to throw it to right-handers. All his offerings play up due to plus-command/control. Delivery is easy and repeatable. He’ll fight for a spot on the 25-man roster, but with a lot of qualified pitchers in camp, he might be OKC’s ace to open the season. Make no mistake, though, Stewart will see time in the majors this season and could emerge as a mainstay for the Dodgers.

2016 ranking: 61
2017 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City/Los Angeles
ETA: Debut 2016

3. Alex Verdugo

DOB: 5/15/96 Age: 21 Ht: 6’0 Wt: 205 Bats: Left Throws: Left Position: CF/RF
Tools Now Future
Hit 50 60
Power 45 50
Run 55 50
Defense 50 55
Arm 65 70
Future Value 60 High
Type of hitter: Line drive, use all fields, decent pop, high contact

How acquired: 2nd round of 2014 MLB Draft (No. 62 overall); $914,600 signing bonus

Physical description: Athletic build, filled out, no projection, strong hands

Strengths: Good bat-to-ball, loud contact, cannon for an arm, low strikeout numbers, average raw power, can walk, performed well in advanced league

Weaknesses: Not a lot of power if he has to move to right field, lacking true center field profile, struggles against lefties

Key statistics: .273/.336/.407, 13 HR, 8.3 BB%, 12.7 K%, .134 ISO, 113 wRC+

Summary: Verdugo was seen as a pitcher by other teams, but he wanted to be drafted as a hitter. The Dodgers acquiesced and Verdugo has done well by them. Verdugo made some mechanical adjustments while in Great Lakes in 2015 and has really taken off since. He got an aggressive assignment to Tulsa, almost skipping Rancho Cucamonga, save 96 plate appearances in 2015. Being almost four years younger than the league-average, Verdugo posted some impressive numbers as the Drillers’ center fielder. He has a short, compact swing that generates a lot of hard-hit line drives all over the diamond. He’ll get a little antsy at times and swing too much, but he still makes a ton of contact and has a chance to be a plus-plus hitter. His swing path is more level and down, so if he learns to elevate, that power potential might be reached. But he has been successful so far as is, so it’s tough to mess with a good thing.

On defense, Verdugo has the arm to play anywhere and is solid in center field. He’s not a speed burner, but he could be at least average out there. That should help his value. If he has to move to right field, he’ll handle it defensively and get to show off his double-plus arm. The Dodgers have a ton of outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart, so it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him back with Tulsa. But he’ll get to OKC at some point and could be knocking on LA’s door come next season.

2016 ranking: 7
2017 location: Double-A Tulsa/Triple-A Oklahoma City
ETA: 2018

2. Yadier Alvarez

DOB: 3/7/96 Age: 21 Ht: 6’3 Wt: 175 Bats: Right Throws: Right Position: SP
Tools Now Future
Fastball 55 75
Curveball 40 55
Slider 45 60
Changeup 30 45
Command/Control 35 50
Delivery 45 55
Future Value 65 High
Type of pitcher: Power, swing-and-miss, high-ceiling, oozes projection

How acquired: International signing (Cuba) in July 2, 2015; $16,000,000 signing bonus

Physical description: Lanky, tons of projection, broad shoulders, will fill out, somewhat mature

Strengths: Explosive fastball, true swing-and-miss breaking pitches, incredible amount of projection, easy delivery

Weaknesses: Has trouble repeating delivery, changeup lacking, command/control lacking, short track record

Key statistics: 2.12 ERA, 33.7 K%, 8.7 BB%, 1 HR allowed in 59 1/3 innings

Summary: Alvarez was the Dodgers’ biggest amateur signing in the 2015-16 international signing period. They passed on Yoan Moncada for him. So far, Alvarez is doing what he can to make them look smart. He has the highest ceiling of any player in the system. His risk factor is just as high. He carved up the AZL and Midwest League in his pro debut, but Dodgers were in no rush to promote him. Alvarez has a fastball that ranges anywhere from 94-99 MPH and touched triple digits on multiple occasions (including 101 MPH). He loses a couple ticks later in starts, but that’s still an incredible fastball. He pairs the fastball with a hard-breaking mid-80s slider that projects to be a plus-pitch. He also has a low-80s curveball that flashes above-average potential, but he needs to work on differentiating it from his slider to make it two different pitches. His mid-80s changeup is more of an afterthought right now, but it has flashed average potential at times. Alvarez has a high-three-quarters arm slot that helps him get a little run on his fastball. He’ll rush his delivery at times and that cause his front shoulder to fly open and negatively impact his command. He’ll need to work on that as he progresses. His delivery is so effortless and easy that it’s easy to see why scouts are so enamored with Alvarez’s future. His arm talent is undeniable, but he’ll need to work on the finer points and nuances of pitching for him to reach his ceiling.

Alvarez has top-of-the-rotation stuff, but his command will keep him from reaching that summit. There’s a decent chance he could be a No. 2 or 3 starter. If not, he could find himself in the back of a rotation or in the bullpen as a high-leverage reliever. His fastball-slider combination would be perfect for the closer’s role, but the Dodgers will develop him as a starter and he should find his way to Rancho Cucamonga. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles the Cal League, but getting him innings – no matter where it is – is the most important thing for him right now.

2016 ranking: 10
2017 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
ETA: 2019

1. Cody Bellinger

DOB: 7/13/95 Age: 21 Height: 6’4 Weight: 210 Bats: Left Throws:  Left Position: 1B/OF
Tools Now Future
Hit 50 55
Power 60 70
Run 55 50
Defense 70 70
Arm 55 55
Future Value 65 Medium
Type of hitter: Power, good against LHP/RHP, good on-base ability, hits with authority

How acquired: 4th round of 2013 MLB Draft (No. 124 overall); $700,000 signing bonus

Physical description: Big, athletic, strong, broad shoulders, almost physically maxed out

Strengths: Power is among MiLB’s best, hits well against lefties, opposite-field power, double-plus defense, can handle center field, improved walk rate while reducing strikeout rate

Weaknesses: Some swing-and-miss, swing geared for power, doesn’t get cheated, doesn’t have much of a 2-strike approach

Key statistics: .263/.359/.484, 23 HR, 12.7 BB%, 20.2 K%, .221 ISO, 142 wRC+ as 20-year-old in Double-A

Summary: Bellinger is one of the many non-first-rounders the Dodgers have popped in recent years who could end up paying off big time for them. He has 53 home runs the last two seasons after hitting just four the previous two seasons. The power had always been there, and he finally tapped into it. Bellinger has very strong hands, wrists and forearms that help him generate plus-bat speed. He puts a charge into the ball and it goes a long way and makes a loud sound when he hits it. He’s the best in the system at elevating the ball and should be rewarded with above-average power numbers in the majors. He flies open sometimes, making him susceptible to pitches low-and-away, but he goes the other way with authority. His plate discipline and strike zone judgment has improved so much in one season that his strikeout numbers won’t be nearly as gaudy as some thought they might when he finally reaches the majors. He has a wide base and holds his hands high behind his left ear. He uses his hips so well to generate his power while doing a fantastic job of keeping his front shoulder closed. His load is so quick that you almost don’t see it. But because of that, the torque he creates with the lower-half makes him less reliant on his upper-half for power. His bat is quick that it helps make up for timing issues, especially on breaking pitches. He’s great at staying back on the ball and not jeopardizing his power. Bellinger has added about 30 good pounds to his frame since turning pro. That helps not only with the power, but also helps him to withstand the rigors of a full season. He missed the season’s first month with a hip impingement after tearing up Spring Training. The hip wasn’t an issue for him the rest of the season.

Defensively, he’s already among the game’s best first basemen. His instincts and actions are so natural and he’s great at digging throws out of the dirt. What’s most impressive is the fact he plays a more than competent outfield. He has enough arm for any spot (with it being average for right field) and plenty of athleticism to handle a corner spot. The fact he can play an average center field (at least, right now) increases his value even more. He’s not going to displace Joc Pederson, but if they need a center fielder for a game or two or 10, Bellinger could handle that. He’s an average runner who won’t steal a lot of bases but should provide some value with his legs. He’s a first-division starter at first base with immense power potential and enough hit tool to make him a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter. He should go to OKC, but going back to Tulsa wouldn’t be surprising because of the outfield/first base logjam ahead of him. He has a chance to make it to LA at some point this season. Those plate appearances will probably come in the outfield, but he’s the obvious heir apparent to Adrian Gonzalez, and despite Gonzalez’s contract (signed through 2018), that could begin in just a year.

2016 ranking: 5
2017 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City/Los Angeles
ETA: 2017


That concludes this year’s Top 100 ranking. I’ll follow up with some supplemental articles in the coming weeks. But now, I need a drink.

About Dustin Nosler

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Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.